Fun with More Amano

February 27, 2009

One of the fun things about being a food blogger is the occasional giveaways. Some people out there are very generous.

Blake, of BlakeMakes happens to be one of the people, and earlier this year he had a giveaway of one of my favorite things. Chocolate! It’s hard enough to resist chocolate on it’s own, and even harder to resist it when it’s free!

And this wasn’t just any chocolate, it was Amano chocolate! The same thing I got from the last Blake Make’s giveaway that I participated in, but different. I have now tried four different types of chocolate from these people, and each and every one was unique, and incredible. I really can’t describe how great this chocolate is, but it’s obvious they take a lot of care to make it right.

For example, Jambra, the chocolate I received in this giveaway … well, I don’t want to sound like one of their spokes people, but they work hard to pick the best ingredients so their chocolate is unique and well worth every penny.

It took a while to pick the right recipe for this chocolate and decided to go with the chocolate chip brioche recipe in new cookbook I got for christmas. I have never made brioche before, and while this had a touch too much butter, and not nearly enough chocolate it was really great.

Chocolate Chip Brioche
Source: The Great Book of Chocolate

1/2 oz instant yeast
1/3 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups butter, softened
2 oz chocolate
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of milk, to glaze

Place the yeast, milk, sugar and salt in a small bowl and stir gently. Set aside 10 minutes.

Place the flour in a large bowl and pour in the yeast mixture. Beating slowly, gradually add the eggs to form a soft dough.

Turn out onto your work surface and knead until soft and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the butter a little at a time. Continue until all the butter has been added, then knead for 5 more minutes.

Add the chocolate and knead until well combined with the dough.

Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in volume, about 90 minutes. Gently remove the risen dough from the bowl and on a floured work surface, flipping the dough over with your fingers.

Place on a tray and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Grease 16 small brioche molds with melted butter.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Weigh off sixteen 1-ounce pieces of dough for the base of the brioches and sixteen 1/3 ounce pieces for the tops.

Shape the larger pieces of dough into tight balls and place in the bottoms of the molds. Shape the smaller pieces of dough into tear-drop shapes. Using your finger, make a hole in the larger balls and poke the teardrop into the holes.

Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze with the egg mixture. Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place to double in volume, about 30 minutes. Brush with the glaze again.

Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

I’ve posted the recipe as written, however we ran into a few issues, so these are my notes:

It was a little too buttery, so you might want to use a little less, however, lots of butter makes it flaky, so don’t take out too much if you do adjust it.

I also don’t believe the recipe was nearly chocolaty enough, nor were they sweet enough. I would suggest adding more chocolate (I think we added twice as much as was called for and it still wasn’t enough) adding some cocoa powder, and maybe adjusting the sugar level.

We also had a problem with the time. 10 minutes wasn’t nearly enough, and more time made them too dark. The second batch we baked covered with foil for about 20 minutes, then uncovered for 10, and we tested the inside temperature to make sure that it was 200F, to assure that they were completely baked.

Don’t let any of this prevent you from trying them, though. They were really fun to make and well worth the time. I really wish we had used a tried and true recipe, to do this incredible chocolate some justice, but it was a fun challenge and awesome chocolate.

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Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 2: Vegan and Delicious

December 15, 2008

 
My dear sister is the kind of women it’s easy to be proud of. She is incredibly quirky and fun to be around, and an great photographer. She has been trying to start a business with a friend of hers and finally has been getting paying jobs. She even has a blog, showing some of her amazing work.

It is finally the kind of job she can be happy with, and I can’t wait for the day she can quit her “day job” and do this full time. I think it will be great for her.

I personally have never really been one of those people who care about how much cheese, or butter…or chocolate that I eat. But my sister is the exact opposite. She really cares about what goes into her body and how everything she does and eats effects everything around her, so she and her husband decided to become vegan. Is that the correct phrase? “Become vegan”?….Anyways, they are vegan. Which makes for an interesting challenge when it comes to Christmas cookies. You can’t go with all the ingredients you would normally choose.

I am always leery when trying “alternative” ingredients. Soy, dairy free, lactose free…none of that stuff sounds like fun. But these cookies are incredible. Even with all the special ingredients it required, they are simply amazing. You could easily use it as a healthy-ish substitute for kids, and they would never even realize all the things these cookies are lacking!

Merry Christmas, my dear sister.

Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: About.com

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
10 oz dairy free chocolate chips
½ cup dairy free soy margarine
1 ½ cups organic sugar
3 tsp egg replacer mixed well with 1/3 cup hot water
½ tsp chocolate liqueur

Preheat oven 350 F. Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil/parchment paper

Bring several inches of water to boil in a small pan or double boiler. Place ½ of the chocolate chips and the margarine in a small stainless steel bowl over the pan and stir constantly until melted and smooth.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

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In another bowl, pour the chocolate mixture and using an mixer, add the sugar, egg replacer and chocolate liqueur until well combined.

In three additions, gradually mix in the flour mixture until well combined. Fold in the remaining chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. place sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Bake for about 14-16 minutes or until the top has cracked but the cookies are still soft. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool until you can no longer resist. Enjoy. 

As a small side note, I have noticed that recipes that call for both melted chocolate and cocoa powder tend to be really moist, with a richer chocolate taste. Keep that in mind when you’re looking for new recipes 🙂


Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 1: A Classic Treat

December 13, 2008

 
It’s hard to believe 2008 is almost gone, and so much has happened! The stocks are pretending they are on a yo-yo, the banks are going bankrupt, much chocolate has been devoured. Thankfully not all of it has been bad. We’re still alive, able to read our favorite blogs and bake ourselves more chocolate when it’s needed. Ignoring the fact that it’s always needed 🙂

Unfortunately now that most bank accounts have almost been completely emptied, we get to spend our last remaining pennies on the people in our lives. The obligations that our society puts on this time of year makes it a little hard to have much fun with the coming holidays, so many people are stressing. But thankfully one thing anyone, even children can have fun with is Christmas cookies!

Regardless of whether you’ve made cookies your whole life, never done it before or (like me) don’t really have the money to choose another gift option, it can be a lot of fun to dive into your kitchen and bake like crazy.

My next couple blogs are all gonna be about Christmas cookies. A couple recipes, some decorating suggestions and…other things 🙂 But first! A classic, and one everyone loves. Sugar cookies!

Sugar Cookies
Source: Rightathome.com

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Optional
decorating supplies of your choice (i.e. sprinkles, sparkling sugar, melted chocolate, etc.)

The day before:

In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the sugar and butter. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula when necessary. The mixture should resemble coarse, moist sand.

Add the egg and vanilla extract to the sugar and butter. With the mixer on low speed, beat to combine until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time and beat with the electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is just combined.

Wrap the dough tightly with saran wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.

The next day:

Remove the dough from the wrap, place it on a smooth, lightly floured surface, and use a rolling pin to roll it out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. You can also roll between two sheets of waxed paper.

Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and carefully transfer them to an ungreased cookie sheet, placing each about 2 inches apart. Combine and roll out the leftover dough and continue cutting out cookie shapes to place on ungreased cookie sheets.

If using sprinkles to decorate, sprinkle before baking. If using chocolate (swirls, strips, dipping…) bake and allow to cool completely first.

Preheat oven to 350F

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, turning the tray halfway through, until the edges of the cookies just begin to turn very light brown.

Remove cookie sheet from the oven and allow to cool for 1 minute. Using a flat spatula, transfer the cookies to the cooling rack to cool completely before storing, eating or decorating them.

This is one of the most classic cookies you can make. Soft and sweet, and very easy to decorate for the holidays. If you don’t want to wait overnight, allow the dough to chill at least an hour before rolling, but if you have the time to wait the flavors will develop more so it’s definitely worth the extra time.


The Finer Things in Life

June 18, 2008

One of the things about being an adult, is that time seems to move so much faster than it did when we were kids. When we’re young, we spend our days imagining the future. Our biggest concern is avoiding the bully at school. We count the days until summer, then spend every moment we possibly can outside, enjoying the sun, and air, the sand at the beach, the trees we can climb…and those we can’t. All the little things that make our lives beautiful. We can’t wait until we grow up and can enjoy everything that’s held back by the adults in our lives.

Then once we become adults, other concerns crowd our minds. We think about bills, our health and that of our loved ones, and taxes. We spend our days, locked in an office, many of us without even a window. We have to force ourselves to eat well, rather than just what we manage to fit in. We crowd every hour of the day we can with the things we feel we have to get done, counting the minutes until we can go to bed. Even our weekends tend to be crowded with errands. And if you’re like me, you even feel guilty for taking a vacation or a single day off.

Thankfully, though we have mostly lost touch with the carefree children we once were, we can still force our selves to spend time on some of the finer things life has to offer. Like the sounds and smells of a summer storm, the taste of good chocolate or wine. Or both.

And of course, the feeling of a good dough in your hands, the smell of it baking and the taste of that first piece. I know not many of you enjoy making bread, and it has unfortunately become one of the things far too many people try to avoid these days, but I realized the other day that it had been way too long since I have made myself any bread, and it was a situation I personally had to remedy.

Crispy Loaf
Slightly adapted from: The Joy Kitchen

2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
4 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites

Mix 2 1/2 cups flour, the yeast, shortening, sugar and water in a bowl, then mix in the salt.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, the fold into the dough. Gradually mix in the remaining flour until the dough is soft but no longer sticky.

Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to a greased bowl, grease the top of the dough and cover with saran wrap. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled.

Punch down the dough, knead it briefly then let rise again until doubled. Repeat once more, then shape into a loaf. Allow to rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Transfer the loaf to a parchment covered baking sheet, then place in the oven and immediately throw in some ice to steam.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, turning once half way through. Loaf should register about 200F on a thermometer inserted in. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Enjoy

This loaf was better tasting than anything I could buy, and well worth the time for that smell alone.

I hope you’ll try this, or something else that you’ve been putting off for lack of time. It’s well worth it to do one little thing like this, to make time for yourself and indulge a little.


Treats “Just For”

June 16, 2008

It’s always nice to give someone a treat or a gift “just for” and tends to mean a bit more than when it’s for a holiday or special occasion.

These cupcakes I was originally going to make for a new friend who loves white chocolate, but things kinda fell through, so instead I have made them this weekend, just for 🙂

I wasn’t really happy with the frosting. It was tasty, but nothing great and definitely not worth a “wow,” but the cupcakes themselves are subtle and sweet and most definitely something worth trying again.

White Chocolate Cupcakes
Source: Baking Bites

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 oz white chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 325F. Place liners in cupcake pan

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time then the melted chocolate and vanilla.

Working in two or three additions, alternate adding in the milk and flour mixture, making sure the flour is last. Mix just until well blended.

Divide batter into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack.

And just in case you want to try the frosting yourself…

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Source: Magnolia Cookbook

(this recipe is divided cause it would have made way too much…)

3/4 butter
3 tablespoon milk
4 1/2 ounces chocolate melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 sifted powdered sugar

Cream the butter in a medium sized bowl. Add in the milk and blend well. Mix in the chocolate and beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for three minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar until you reach the desired taste and consistency. 

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost as desired and sprinkle with more white chocolate. Enjoy.

I was pretty happy with these. Not only did I get to practice with my new decorating tips, but these really are great cupcakes.


The Dark Side of a Cookie

June 3, 2008

 It’s funny how chocolate can so easily grab peoples attention. Wouldn’t it be fun if more people could be like that? You simply say their name and people instantly want to know more. Sure people like to gossip about celebrities but I mean the real people out there like those of us baking all the time. A little bit of almost everything I bake (especially the cookies) makes its way into the office so whenever I stop one of my co-workers on her way to her desk in the morning she almost always asks “chocolate?!”…I could have been giving her phone messages but somehow she could just smell the chocolate, and these cookies in particular seemed to please her so hopefully they’ll grab your attention too 🙂

I wanted to find the perfect recipe for the last bit of that Amano chocolate I received from the Blake Makes giveaway. My initial plan was to make chocolate and white chocolate truffles, and cover the chocolate ones with the Amano but this new recipe didn’t quite turn out. Don’t worry, I will be making plenty of truffles in the future, just not Amano.

So I had to come up with a different great recipe and decided to peruse my Magnolia cookbook to see what I could find. There are of course tons of excellent recipes that I want to try eventually but I had a bit of a challenge that prevented me from trying most of them. You see, I need to go grocery shopping…badly. Now I know that I could easily go and get a small amount of what I might need for any recipe, but it’s much easier to be a little lazy and much more fun to see what you can do with what you got. Truthfully I am pretty happy I went with this one 🙂

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies
Source: Magnolia Cookbook

1 cup flour
6 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips*

Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and shortening with the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes or so for the sugar to dissolve then beat in to egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture until well blended then stir in the chocolate chips. *Note: this recipe called for 1/2 cup of chocolate chips but that wasn’t nearly enough so I added in another 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips. Set bowl in the fridge for a few minutes to chill. Preheat oven to 350F.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, sprinkle with additional sugar and bake for approximately ten minutes.

Scoop onto a cooling rack and allow to cool. Enjoy 🙂

The dough for these was a little drier than normal but the resulting cookies were really great. I love the sprinkling of sugar on top and plan to use it again in the future 🙂


The Best Part of Waking Up

May 18, 2008

Even before I moved to New York I have loved bagels. Every once an a while, when I could convince my mother to go to the mall (she’s a people person, but can’t stand malls) we would treat ourselves to a perfectly evil dish. Salt bagels smothered in melted cheese. I refuse to think about what that might have done to our bodies cause it was well worth it to bite into those things.

That just makes it so much better that my wonderful city has perfected this tasty treat. I don’t know what it is about these things, but there is really nothing better to start your day with. Even if it isn’t smothered with cheese. 🙂

I don’t have them often now, and it’s even rarer that they have cheese on them, because there is no way I can convince myself that they’re even remotely good for me. Of course that rarity just makes them so much better, and the idea of actually having one fresh and homemade was impossible to pass up.

I admit, these aren’t as good as a real New York bagel, but it’s so much fun to make and so tasty, that I will definitely be doing this again.

Bagels
Source: The Fresh Loaf

Sponge:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups water

Dough:
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder (can substitute 1 tablespoon malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar)

1 tablespoon baking soda for the water
Cornmeal for dusting the pan
Toppings for the bagels

The Night Before:
Stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and stir until all ingredients are blended. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for two hours.

Remove the plastic wrap and stir the additional yeast into the sponge. Add 3 cups of the flour, the malt powder, and the salt into the bowl and mix until all of the ingredients form a ball. You need to work in the additional 3/4 cups of flour to stiffen the dough, either while still mixing in the bowl or while kneading. The dough should be stiffer and drier than normal bread dough, but moist enough that all of the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the dough out of the bowl onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Immediately after kneading, split the dough into a dozen small pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set it aside. When you have all 12 pieces made, cover them with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.

To shape the bagel, punch your thumb through the center of each ball and then rotate the dough, working it into a bagel shape, making it as even in width as possible.

Place the shaped bagels on an oiled sheet pan, with an inch or so between one another. If you have parchment paper, line the sheet pan with parchment and spray it lightly with oil before placing the bagels on the pan. Cover the pan with plastic and allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes.

The suggested method of testing whether the bagels are ready to retard is by dropping one of them into a bowl of cool water: if the bagel floats back up to the surface in under ten seconds it is ready to retard. If not, it needs to rise more. Place the covered pan into the refrigerator for the night.

The Next Day

Preheat the oven to 500. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add one tablespoon of baking soda to the pot to alkalize the water.

When the pot is boiling, drop a few of the bagels into the pot one at a time and let them boil for a minute. Use a large, slotted spoon or spatula to gently flip them over and boil them on the other side.

Before removing them from the pot, sprinkle corn meal onto the sheet pan. Remove them one at a time, set them back onto the sheet pan, and top them right away, while they are still slightly moist. Repeat this process until all of the bagels have been boiled and topped.

Once ready, place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 450 degrees, rotate the pan, and bake for another 5 minutes until the bagels begin to brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for as long as you can before digging in. Enjoy

I need to work on the shaping a bit (okay, a lot…they were kinda ugly) but they were also very tasty. Definitely worth trying again, especially if I can bribe one of my male friends to knead this very tough dough for me 🙂